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Breaking love broken lov.., p.21
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       Breaking Love (Broken Love #4), p.21

           B. B. Reid
 
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  He had just been outnumbered and unarmed yet somehow killed them all.

  Those few moments did what fourteen years couldn’t. It was then I realized he was someone to fear after all.

  He stepped forward and I shrunk back, expecting and fully deserving to be next, but then he shocked me when he bent and lifted me. He stepped over The Handler’s lifeless body and carried me out.

  When the day began, I thought of Keiran as my enemy and him likely the same, yet we had risked all to save each other.

  In the end, it didn’t matter anyway. Esmerelda had gotten away.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

  WILLOW

  KEIRAN HAD SILENTLY driven us away from the carnage. We had yet to speak a word to each other until he stopped just outside the city.

  “Why are we here?” I stared up at the sign of the small diner that read Joey’s Pizza Creations.

  “I’m hungry.”

  I stared at him dumbfounded. “And you have to eat now?”

  “Yes. We need to talk.” He snatched the key out of the ignition and flung himself from the car. I scrambled after him while he waited with the door held open.

  “We need to get you to a hospital. There could be side effects. There should be side effects.”

  He didn’t appear fazed as he stared down at me. “All right,” he shrugged. “Let’s make a deal. You eat with me, and I’ll go to the hospital after.”

  For someone who almost died and killed a room full of people, he had his priorities screwed. “Please,” he added when I continued to stare.

  “Fine.” I told myself I only agreed because he would only do what please him anyway and stepped in the diner with him close behind me. The patrons watched us with wary expressions, and I realized how bad we looked. I sported only a busted lip and stained shirt but Keiran’s shirt was torn. Bruises marred his body and blood stained his clothing in spatters.

  If Keiran had noticed the looks of disgust, he didn’t show it as he swaggered to the counter. He looked back and grinned. “Cheese or pep?”

  I tilted my head in confusion before coming to my senses. “Cheese.”

  “Cheese it is,” he directed toward the pimply faced cashier. While Keiran paid, I found the nearest booth and slid inside, no longer able to trust my legs to hold me up. I placed my head in my hands and mentally counted all the reasons I was a horrible person. I never even noticed Keiran approach minutes later.

  He set the pizza and two paper plates at the center of the table before taking his seat. He then tore off a slice, dripping grease and cheese on the plate in front of me, then pointed and grunted, “Eat.”

  I looked from the pizza to him and felt my stomach rumble. Turns out I was completely famished¸ but even hunger couldn’t fight the apprehension.

  “It’s not poisoned,” he assured with impatience. I continued to hesitate until my stomach growled again. We fell into a natural silence while we ate. I took unsure bites while he wolfed down slice after slice.

  “So what did you give me?” he asked after finishing off his fourth slice. He sat back and rubbed his stomach which I was sure had not an ounce of fat. He probably burned hundreds of calories by just sitting there.

  “Death’s Kiss.”

  “You wanted to kill me.”

  “I was supposed to kill you.”

  “But you wanted me dead.”

  “I didn’t—” I stopped short at the hard look in his eyes that warned me not to lie. I thought I wanted him dead until I believed he was. It’s amazing how reality could put things into perspective.

  “It’s okay, Low. I deserved it.”

  “Low?”

  He looked as surprised as I felt before shrugging. “I think it fits you.”

  “I’ve had enough of nicknames.”

  I would have expected Keiran to have some insult, but he simply studied me as if genuinely curious. Maybe he was looking for an advantage. He was, after all, a cold piece of work. “What does Death’s Kiss do? Why am I not dead?”

  “It’s a drug that mimics death but nothing like the stuff everyone’s heard of before. It’s used by junkies to calm the speed of a high and housewives that have trouble sleeping at night. All the symptoms of death but nothing more than a deep sleep.”

  “I’ve heard about that on the news. How the fuck did you get your hands on that?”

  “I bought it from a dealer at the university. Apparently, Esmerelda is the mystery supplier.”

  “This is becoming too fucked up to be real.”

  “Tell me about. A one-day routine visit with my mother turned out to be a fight for my life.”

  “You were supposed to let me take care of it.”

  “Believe me—no part of me wanted anything to do with this. I had been fully ready to let you deal with your own issues until Esmerelda paid me a third surprise visit.”

  “When?”

  “After we had returned from California after we’d warned you. She showed up at Dash’s apartment and just let herself in.”

  His frown deepened at that. “How?”

  “The new security guard Dash has been combing the streets for was her inside man.”

  “Son of a bitch.”

  “Anyway, after she was able to get that close by infiltrating the very team meant to keep him safe, I realized no one could keep me safe. She threatened Buddy if I didn’t kill you within one week.”

  “How were you supposed to do it?”

  “She gave me a vial of poison the day of the wedding. When she kidnapped me a second time, she told me she wanted proof the deed was done.”

  “Proof?”

  “A piece of you.”

  I expected more of a reaction, but he simply shook his head and bit into his pizza. “So you got the idea to drug me and butcher me against my will to fool her rather than confide in me?”

  “Precisely.”

  “You know that’s fucked up, right?”

  “I—”

  “But I would have done the same thing. You could have just killed me, but you didn’t. I guess I owe you thanks.”

  “I think we’re even,” I replied in a dry tone.

  “You came after me, too. You didn’t have to.”

  “It was my fault you were taken.”

  He nodded and stated, “True.”

  I rolled my eyes and then asked a question of my own. “Why did you come tonight?”

  “I was guarding you. I followed you to the school and back.”

  “So you knew about the drug?”

  He shook his head and took another bite. “I thought you were on drugs. I was going to ignore it and told myself I didn’t care, but I found myself coming to stop you anyway.”

  “I can’t believe you thought I was on drugs.”

  “I can’t believe you were going to chop me up.”

  “I wouldn’t put it that way. I would have taken a finger, is all.”

  He stared at me again in that way he did that said he was reading my every thought. “I found you,” he finally stated after a long silence.

  “What?”

  “Thirteen months after you disappeared, I tracked you down,” he clarified.

  “You looked for me?” I wasn’t sure whether to believe him or call him a liar. He answered first with a single nod and a solemn expression.

  “I did.”

  “Why?”

  “I had to.”

  “You had to,” I repeated dumbly.

  “Do you realize how much your disappearance affected everyone?”

  “You all seemed all too happy together.”

  “Lake missed you. Dash needed you—”

  “Yet you took them both from me.”

  “They were never yours.”

  “Nor were they yours,” I countered. Air blew from his nose reminding me of a dragon and breaking the temporary peace we had. The vein in his forehead became prominent, and I wondered just how buried below the surface was the old Keiran.

  As soon as the thought forme
d, the vein disappeared and his shoulders slumped.

  “You might be right,” he whispered.

  “Don’t be stupid. Lake loves you.”

  “I did a lot of fucked up shit to her. No amount of love can just erase it.”

  “It got pretty intense at times, but I’m sure none of it matters to her now.”

  “I raped her.”

  “Excuse me?”

  “Lake.”

  My fist whipped out before I even knew what was happening and hit him hard in the eye. His head snapped. “You sack of shit.” I swung out again, but he caught my wrist in a tight grip.

  “Enough,” he growled and looked around pointedly. The other patrons were watching with horrified expressions. I sat back against the booth and looked out the window, unable to stand the look of him. “I didn’t hurt her.”

  “Allow me to not believe you. You raped her,” I cried.

  “Talk louder, please.”

  “You should be in prison.”

  “I didn’t force myself on her, but I blackmailed her into letting me have her, and I didn’t give her much choice to say no.”

  “She never told me.”

  “She wanted to protect you.”

  “From you.”

  “From me,” he confirmed.

  “I knew you were cruel, but I never thought you would go that far. You tortured her for years and for what cause?”

  “I never thought I would go that far either. Some days I wish I had an excuse to hate her as much as I did just so I could live with the guilt.”

  “Should I feel sorry for you?”

  “I’m not asking you to do anything but listen.”

  That shut me up. Begrudgingly, I nodded and folded my arms, appearing to have authority, but really, I was terrified of the truth.

  “Twenty years from now when someone asks how we met and fell in love, what am I supposed to say? The truth? Our story is fucked up, and it’s all because of me.”

  I grabbed his hand and squeezed. Surprisingly, he squeezed back. “But it’s still being written. You can’t change your past. The only thing you can do now is to learn from it. Make her happy and more importantly, always make her feel safe. She needs it.”

  We both became lost in mutual silence as we retreated into our thoughts.

  “You realize we almost died together,” he pointed out after some time.

  “Yeah, so?”

  “I think that makes us friends now.”

  “We’ll see.”

  CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

  DASH

  TWO HOURS WAS all it took for me to become fully rabid. After Simon had confirmed that Willow, my Willow, was his daughter and that she was engaged to some prick, I rushed home with her father in tow only to find her gone.

  I worried and pulled at my hair while calling around in search of her until I found that my car keys were also missing, which meant she left willingly.

  No one had heard from her. I even became desperate enough to show up on her mother’s doorstep. I wondered how she could have slipped away. Keiran, the person, I trusted the most with her safety had been guarding her. After many unsuccessful attempts to contact him, I realized my missing person list had been updated to two.

  I had just been convinced we needed to get the police involved when a call came through from Keiran.

  I couldn’t answer fast enough.

  “Where the fuck are you?”

  “Grady Hospital.”

  “Fuck… Willow?”

  “She’s fine. Just a little banged up, but she’ll survive. Just get here.”

  “I’m on my way.” I hung up and notified everyone who mattered to get to Grady Hospital. Before long, the waiting area was crowded. My parents, Willow’s parents, Keenan, Sheldon, and Lake were all in attendance. However, the only people they were letting back were immediate family.

  Everyone was causing an uproar, but it didn’t matter. Not even two minutes later, Keiran, and Willow came strolling down the hallway side-by-side, looking pretty banged up but alive.

  “Oh, my God. What the hell happened to you,” Willow’s mother exclaimed.

  “I’d like to know the same,” her father stepped forward as well. I gritted my teeth against the reminder that I had the key to Willow’s location in my grasp for months now.

  “Dad?” she asked, sounding every bit as confused as she looked. “What are you doing here?” Her eyes flitted in my direction before she nervously cast them away again. “How did you find me?”

  “Young lady, you were due back over a week ago. I was worried.”

  “Wait a minute. This is your father,” Lake asked. It sparked everyone to start asking questions as tension rose higher than before. I stood off to the side, holding on by a thread as her parents interrogated her.

  I needed answers so I looked to Keiran, but he had his hands full with Lake, who was back to crying and babbling in his chest.

  “Son, I’m glad your friend is okay, but I think it’s time to go,” my father stated quietly.

  “If you think I’m about to leave her, you’re crazy.”

  “As you can see she’s in good hands.”

  “No.”

  “Son, think about the image of this family. God knows what crimes happened tonight.”

  “I’m not leaving,” I repeated while pinching the bridge of my nose.

  “It’s time you consider this family rather than just yourself.” His voice had risen, attracting the attention of everyone else.

  “Dad,” Sheldon called.

  “Be quiet, Sheldon. It’s bad enough you had a child with one of them. Your interference is not needed.”

  “Did he just tell my lady to ‘be quiet’?” Keenan snarled.

  “Do you see what I mean? You do not need to mix with the likes of these people. Your sister is beyond saving, but I will not have my heir chasing some two-bit girl from the wrong side of the tracks.”

  “Have you lost your mind?” Willow’s mother shrieked.

  My father had effectively gotten the situation out of hand. Willow stood nearby with tears glistening in her eyes. It was clear she heard every word that was spoken.

  “Chambers!” Simon’s voiced boomed from across the hall, shocking us all. He had been quiet through all of it until now. “If you interfere with my daughter’s happiness like you did with mine, I’ll kill you.”

  Willow’s mom made a strange sound that didn’t escape Willow’s notice. “What’s he talking about, Dad?”

  “Richard, I don’t think this is the right time,” Willow’s mom cut in.

  “Mom?” Willow spoke up for the first time. “Since when do you know the Chambers?”

  She must have sensed Willow wasn’t about to let it go, so she took a deep breath and sat in one of the plastic chairs as if no longer able to stand.

  “Your father stopped me from marrying your mother,” Simon offered. “He didn’t think she was good enough because her blood wasn’t blue. When he couldn’t convince me to break it off with her, he told my parents and they forced me to marry someone else. I never even knew Natalie was pregnant.”

  I looked at my father in disbelief, waiting for him to deny it, which he never did. He actually looked proud.

  “You’re the reason?” Willow whispered. She stepped away from her mother, her stare fixed on my father. I had no idea what she meant, but I knew I needed to diffuse the situation quickly.

  I crossed the short walkway and took Willow’s hand, turning her. “Now isn’t the time. You were just attacked or God knows what. You need rest, but first you need to finish your discharge.” I nudged her towards the receptionist desk. The nurses had stopped working to watch the drama unfold, but with one hard look, they snapped back into action.

  * * *

  I nursed Willow back to health over the next week, despite the protests of her mother and father. All they managed to do was argue who was the worst parent. It had driven Willow up the wall, so I kept them away from her with orders not to com
e around until all her scars had faded.

  It had been a long, hard week considering everything that had unraveled. Willow had come clean about everything, even the fiancé she hypocritically never mentioned and her attempt to butcher my best friend.

  In the end, I could do nothing more than nod and accept the truth of what is all the while wondering if I could truly forgive her.

  After a week, the answer came to me when the bitter truth had transformed into resentment, and I could no longer pretend anymore.

  I came home after working from sun up to sun down and found her in the kitchen making lasagna. The apartment smelled delicious, but I couldn’t bring myself to appreciate the smell or the sentiment behind it.

  I stood against the doorframe for long moments, watching her move around the kitchen. She seemed like a natural. She had always been someone I could just sit and watch do mundane things like brush her hair and never get bored.

  I waited and waited for the familiar stirrings I normally felt when just looked at her, but none came. I felt dead inside.

  “You weren’t just coming to visit your mother, were you?” The words were out before I could stop them. She jumped at the sudden sound of my voice and clutched her chest with deep breaths. I continued to watch her dispassionately from my perch.

  When she finally collected herself, she asked, “What are you talking about?” She looked around nervously and now clutched her middle.

  “And you weren’t going to return to Seattle either,” I continued, not really requiring an answer. “You were going to run.”

  “Don’t be ridiculous.”

  “I’m not so ridiculous. What is ridiculous is why you would condemn me for being engaged when you were engaged, too and for the very same reasons.”

  “I never agreed to marry him.”

  “So did you run?”

  “I didn’t, Dash. I—”

  “You did!” I roared. I swear my voice could have shaken the world.

  “Why would I run?” she screamed back. “It was a stupid idea. Where would I have gone? There was nowhere for me to go!” Her screams turned into sobs, never realizing she had confessed. One thing that hadn’t changed in the week since I found her in the hospital was how I hung on her every word.

 
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